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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

PMC draws ire of civic activists for potholed roads

Activists demand responsibility be fixed on the engineers, consultants and contractors for the lapses.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune |
Updated: August 1, 2021 10:39:20 am

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) came under fire from civic activists over the condition of roads that are dotted with potholes, with many demanding permanent solutions to the recurring problem “which puts the lives of citizens at risk”. The activists also demanded implementation of the recommendations of the Road Development and Road Maintenance Committee set up in 2016.

The activists want the responsibility to be fixed on the engineers, consultants and contractors for the lapses. The Pedestrians First, a group of activists, in a letter to the PMC commissioner said, “We are once again witnessing the same old sordid annual story of battered and tattered roads during Monsoon. It is shocking to see that roads constructed or renovated only a few months back have developed potholes. Even concrete roads, costing much higher than tar roads and supposed to last for twenty-five years, are getting damaged.”

The letter added, “Potholed roads have several serious implications for citizens…highly unsafe road conditions lead to serious accidents, health issues among vehicle users (including neck, back, spine problems), damage to vehicles, severe traffic congestions, loss of vital man-hours in commuting, delays in goods transportation, higher fuel consumption, personal and business losses and increased pollution. PMC has, as always, been quick to declare that they would get the roads repaired on a war footing. This annual ritual of potholes developing and PMC repairing has to stop as it is a huge drain of public money and also only an emergency first aid. What is needed is a permanent cure to this recurring illness.”

Prashat Inamdar, convenor of Pedestrians First, told The Indian Express on Saturday that the basic question is why do roads get damaged so easily? “It is never answered by the PMC. It is obvious that there is something seriously wrong with the way roads in Pune are constructed. Realising this fact, the then Commissioner had constituted an Expert Committee in April 2016 to study various issues regarding road development and maintenance and provide guidance to the road department in the matter. The committee was named the Road Development and Road Maintenance Committee. I was a member of the committee and had actively participated in the study and preparation of the report.”

The committee, he said, carried out an extensive and exhaustive study of various aspects regarding road construction and maintenance in Pune and submitted its report in August 2016.

The committee had recommended that for decisions regarding the construction of concrete roads, other important aspects such as utilities, temperature, noise, roadside trees, water percolation, citizens’ opinion etc should be considered along with technical parameters like lifecycle cost, reduced maintenance and others.

Inamdar said, “The committee suggested clear demarcation of responsibilities for road construction and maintenance between the main road department and ward offices. It suggested adequate budgetary provisions taking into account the prevailing norms of the requirement of funds should be ensured. Efforts should be made to ensure that revenue generated by the roads department is set aside and provided to the roads department only. This is a common practice of the state or central governments where toll revenue generated by the roads department is made available to the same department. Special attention to the budgetary provisions made for reinstatement works, which are seldom commensurate with the permissions given for trenching work.”

The committee also said a policy for the appointment of third-party audit agencies and project management consultants should be framed and strictly implemented and performance evaluation systems for contractors, consultants and third-party audit agencies should be framed and strictly implemented.

Among other key recommendations include roles and responsibilities of PMC Engineers. “The committee said roles and responsibilities of PMC engineers should be clearly defined in case of projects where consultants and third-party audit agencies are deployed. A suitable form needs to be incorporated as an annexure to confidential reports of the officers to evaluate the performance of the concerned officers on this count. Failure in this respect needs to be viewed very seriously,” the letter sent to PMC adds.

The committee mooted a Planning and Central Coordination cell for the overall management of the road infrastructure within the city. It also suggested GIS mapping of all roads showing all the overground and underground services incorporating other technical and physical parameters. “This would act as a decision-making tool,” the committee suggested.

The committee also advocated that the Road Repairs and Maintenance Cell should be established for better implementation and monitoring of the ducting and reinstatement activities. It said implementation of standard checklists should be done to confirm completion of all related activities before the release of any payment to contractors and identification and demarcation of road repair waste material disposal locations should be done in each ward.

Inamdar said as per the committee, preparation and immediate implementation of a training manual and continuous rigorous training programmes for PMC staff at all levels, contractors, consultants and other stakeholders is a must. “Sporadic training arranged once in a while is of no use,” he said.

He added, “Monthly review of the work of the roads department by the Municipal Commissioner personally on the basis of management by default. Half an hour monthly spent by the Municipal Commissioner would go a long way in improving the condition of roads in the city. An interaction with STAC on a regular basis would help the Commissioner to get a third-party view of the reforms process.”

Activists said going by the present condition of roads, it is clear that PMC has not taken the RDRM Committee recommendations given five years ago seriously.

They urged, “It is imperative that PMC should study the recommendations afresh and implement them effectively. Based on the recommendations, a permanent system for road construction should be put in place considering the applicable aspects such as — material used, the methodology adopted, the process followed, compliance with applicable technical specifications and codes of practice, workmanship, supervision, quality checks at various stages and final inspection, contractor competence, training to personnel etc. It is also necessary to fix responsibility and accountability of engineers, contractors, consultants, quality inspectors etc for lapses due to which lakhs of citizens have to suffer.”

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